mohamed-fahmyCanadians of many stripes have seen their freedom stripped while abroad. And it’s a topic Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy knows firsthand. A former Al Jazeera English bureau chief, Fahmy was imprisoned in Cairo from 2013 to 2015 — which amounts to 438 days. He was locked up on the same wing as senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and a few who fought with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Al Jazeera English had set up an office in the Marriott hotel in Cairo. That’s where we were arrested in a televised raid,” says Fahmy.

He was captured with fellow journalists Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed. During his prison stay, Fahmy often slept on a cement floor crawling with insects in solitary confinement.

Fahmy’s perilous experience applies to more than journalists alone. “What happened to me can happen to anyone. Part of it is that there all these new, vague terrorism laws — especially in the Middle East,” says Fahmy.

Join Mohamad Fahmy at the Arden Theatre Keynote Speaker presentation: 

Media in the Age of Terror
Saturday, October 1
7:30 p.m.
Arden Theatre
5 St Anne Street, St. Albert

Mohamed Fahmy was Al Jazeera’s English bureau chief in Cairo at the time of his arrest in 2013. Fahmy cites Concordia professor Homa Hoodfar as an example of someone arrested under a so-called anti-terrorism law.

Dr. Hoodfar is one obvious case of champions of expression who are arrested and used as pawns or political hostages,” says Fahmy. Hoodfar was accused of collaboration with a hostile government and propaganda against the state. She has been held captive in an Iranian jail since July.

Shortly after his release and subsequent return to Canada in 2015, Fahmy took on an activist role. He lobbied the Canadian government with Amnesty International Canada for a charter that would govern the rights of Canadians in trouble beyond the country’s borders.

Canada doesn’t have any legal obligation to help its citizens who are imprisoned abroad. Countries such as Germany and the United States do,” says Fahmy. “There are more than 1,400 Canadians being detained oversees, some of them in horrible living conditions.

Each day is crucial when behind bars. As Fahmy contends, prisoners can be tortured and abused by officials.

One of the main examples is Zahra Kazemi. She died while being interrogated,” says Fahmy. Kazemi was an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who was arrested in Iran in 2003 and died 19 days later in custody.

Fahmy was pardoned in September 2015 after he renounced his Egyptian citizenship. He has since regained it — a move that raised some eyebrows among Canadians.

It’s hard for people to imagine this from the outside. It’s a matter of principal,” says Fahmy. I did nothing wrong in the first place. Sooner or later you’ll see my byline out of Egypt again. My story is much more layered and complex than you know.

Those nuances and details will be discussed when Fahmy relates his experiences on October 1.

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